Gobs on Sticks

Thoughts mostly (but not always) about the voice-over business, from London Voiceover Artist, Mike Cooper

  • About the author

    My name is Mike Cooper. I'm a full time Voiceover Artist living and working in London, and this is my blog. Find out more about me on my main website (there's a link further down this column), or if you'd like to hear some of my work, check out the files below.

Posts Tagged ‘documentary’

Content is king (…distance is nothing!)

Posted by MikeCooper on August 12, 2009

I recently provided the voiceover for a documentary film for a producer in Sydney, Australia called Craig Tanner. Craig is from South Africa and his film, “Fahrenheit 2010”, charts the ups and downs of his homeland’s preparations to host the 2010 FIFA World Cup football tournament.

You can read more about the project in the News section of my website here. With the film’s successful debut last week at the Durban International Film Festival, I took the opportunity to ask Craig a few questions about how the film was received, and about the process of collaborating with a voiceover artist who was 10,500 miles away!

MC: So, how was the Durban premiere, Craig?

CT: The film went down very well.  The Q and A following the screening involved positive feedback, and came to an end, not because the audience ran out of questions, but because the next film was due to start soon. An animated Q and A session the following day was also encouraging.  Input from “industry” people has also given me cause for optimism regarding TV sales. (You will be interested to hear that I have had several people enthusing about the voiceover.)

MC: <blush> That’s encouraging! The film’s a South African production, set it South Africa and looking in detail at that country’s struggles and challenges in the run-up to next year’s World Cup football tournament. So what made you want to hire a British voice?

CT: In making a film about South Africa, with its myriad of languages and accents, it was important for me that the voice of the film did not represent any particular class or ethnic group within that society.  I wanted a voice that had hallmarks of independence and neutrality, and would not itself involve an exotic distraction. Received pronunciation or Standard English meets those criteria. It is the voice of international news, and of documentary films.

MC: Understood. And how did you find our long-distance collaboration?

CT: It was really easy.  I sent the material via email.  We proceeded to have a discussion over Skype regarding the tenor of the voice, and the pronunciation of various African names.  I then listened in as you did your stuff.  We discussed the odd variation in emphasis, and you provided some alternatives.  The sound files arrived in my inbox within minutes, and my editor was working with the material later that day.  The distance between London and Sydney was no barrier at all.

MC: Thanks, Craig – and the best of luck with the next stage of selling the film to buyers!

Here’s a tip for you: As a voiceover artist I work on my own most of the time, and marketing is something I have to focus on for myself – there’s no one else to do it for me, after all! So, I always take an opportunity like this to ask for a few words by way of a testimonial from a happy client. I won’t publish them here to save further blushes, but if you’d like to read the very nice things that Craig said about me then check out my Testimonials page over at www.MikeCooperVoiceover.com.

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A Killer on Campus – a clip online

Posted by MikeCooper on July 17, 2009

My “Killer on Campus” programme aired for the first time last night on The Crime & Investigation Network. It’s a UK re-version of a Bill Kurtis Special Report from the US, which goes beyond the headlines and the news clips, providing context to the Virginia Tech bombing, asking the questions on everyone’s minds: Why did it happen? What brought someone to commit such senseless murders? How will society put an end to the epidemic of school shootings?

Here’s a clip from my YouTube channel:

The beady-eyed amongst us will notice that the channel logo in the top right hand corner shows it’s lifted from the “+1” service. Last night’s thunderstorms here in London knocked out my satellite reception while it was showing the first time. Thank heaven’s for repeats!

To find out when this programme is showing next, visit my website and click on “TV Schedule”.

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The Black Widow – now on the web

Posted by MikeCooper on June 22, 2009

“The Black Widow: A Web of Suspicion” is the first of two programmes I revoiced recently for the UK’s Crime & Investigation Network. It premiered last night.

A look at the bizarre life of Sandra Bridewell, a beautiful Southern belle and wealthy socialite who became known as the “Black Widow” when three of her husbands ended up dead and Sandra pocketed big life insurance payouts. The programme follows detectives and newspaper reporter Glenna Whitley as they investigate Bridewell’s trail of death and deceit and prepare to spring a trap for her.

The programme airs again today at 3pm on Sky channel 553 (or 4pm on the “+1” service on Sky 554). If you miss it, keep an eye out for it in my TV Schedule on my website. In the meantime, or in case you’re outside the the UK or don’t get Sky Digital, here are two short clips: one from the start of the programme, and one from midway through. I hope you enjoy them!

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Mike’s Mid-June Voiceover Update

Posted by MikeCooper on June 17, 2009

The year is whizzing by faster than I seem to be able to keep track. This weekend it’s the longest day of the year already, which means it’ll soon be Christmas, no doubt. I’ve been keeping busy the last few weeks with some interesting new projects.

A couple of weeks ago I voiced a documentary for an independent film-maker based in Sydney, who’s producing a programme on the preparations for next year’s football World Cup in South Africa. The programme is still in the editing stages, but when it’s finished the idea is that it will be shown at various festivals and sold to interested broadcasters. I’ll post an update on this in due course.

An interesting meeting at Pinewood studios at the start of the month revealed some great new programmes coming to Film24, for whom I work as a continuity announcer. These include “Sordid Lives: The Series”, which will be airing on Film24 from the start of August. Think “Desperate Housewives”, but set on a trailer park, and with Olivia Newton John and Golden Girl Rue McLanahan, and you start to get the idea. Andrew Burns, CEO of the channel, has some other new programming ideas up his sleeve for the next few months too, all of which should bring exciting improvements to the schedule.

Also this month I’ve voiced a science documentary which will soon start showing in museums in the United States. Called Planet You 3D, it’s been produced by Chedd-Angier-Lewis, in Watertown, MA, and will shortly get its premiere at the Health Museum in Houston and the Museum of Science in Boston, before hopefully rolling out to science centres across the United States. You can read the production blog (including the very nice things they said about me) here.

Aside from these projects it’s been the regular round of corporates, including jobs for Capgemini and British Gas, commercials for radio stations in the UK, and my ongoing work for the BBC World Service and the History Channel. And outside work I’ve been trying to get to see as much of the ICC World Twenty20 cricket as I can – after all, I only live ten minutes from Kennington Oval!

Posted in Broadcasting, Documentaries, Freelancing, news, Television, Voiceovers | Tagged: , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Mike’s Late May Update

Posted by MikeCooper on May 27, 2009

It’s been a busy month, all told. I’ve been writing furiously for the History Channel (which now prefers to be known simply as “History”). They’ve asked me to become a regular continuity announcer for the channel for the next little while, so I’ll be popping up between programmes there quite a lot for now, and I’m actually on air all week this week (26-31 May).

WhP, in France, asked me to produce some voiceover material for the Renault Academy last week, which I delivered this week. A complex project which involved a lot of editing to produce files which could be split up by an automated process. I learned a lot about the new Mégane Coupé in the process, should anyone ever call on me to do a repair.

Meanwhile, IC Group in Winnipeg, Canada, approached me to voice the British version of some training materials for Brit Insurance.

And tomorrow I’m looking forward to voicing a documentary programme about the preparations for the FIFA 2010 World Cup in South Africa, with a producer based in (wait for it…) Sydney, Australia!

Never let it be said that I don’t get around…

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Mike’s Week on the Mike (18 – 24 April)

Posted by MikeCooper on April 28, 2009

Last week was quite a week, with lots of “personal” stuff going on. Fortunately that didn’t get in the way of it being a great week for voiceover work, though!

On Monday I travelled up to Manchester for an all-day session on Tuesday at my agent’s,The Voiceover Gallery. The client was putting together an eLearning package aimed at youngsters with dyslexia, the aim being that by using the software they could teach themselves to read and spell. I hope to have more details of this ambitious project when it’s closer to completion, but for my part it included reading out a dictionary of over 3,000 words and then the prompts and cues for the software and tutorials. For a while it looked like a second day might be in order to finish off, but we managed to crack it in a day, which meant I came back on Tuesday night as planned.

This was good news, as it meant I could squeeze in another session for Matinée Sound and Vision in Reading on Tuesday for their client, WhP in France at short notice, and score brownie points with the nice ladies in the office there.

Thursday saw me over at Sky for the first of two appearances during the week: the first session was to record a week’s worth of continuity links for History, which are on air this week here in the UK. If you have what used to be The History Channel as part of your Sky or Virgin package, you’ll hear me introducing all the programmes until last thing on Sunday night. (Sky 529 / Virgin 234 and in HD on Sky 545)

Saturday saw me back at Sky, narrating two documentaries for the Crime & Investigation Network (Sky 553 / Virgin 237). They were both Bill Curtis Special Reports, being reversioned for the UK market. One features the story of Sandra Bridewell and is entitled “The Black Widow: A Web of Suspicion”, and the other, “A Killer on Campus”, tells of the shocking massacre carried out by Sueng Hui Cho on the campus of Virgina Tech in 2007. I hope to have transmission dates for both of these programmes shortly and will post them when I do.

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Mike’s Week on the Mike (30 March – 5 April)

Posted by MikeCooper on April 6, 2009

The highlight of my Week on the Mike this week was narrating a two-hour Easter special for the National Geographic Channel. Called “Jesus: The Man from Nazareth”, it gets its first showing this Saturday, 12th April, at 5pm, with a repeat on Easter Sunday morning at 10am. It’s an attempt to find out who the “real” Jesus was, by looking at evidence from the time and comparing that to the stories we’ve come to regard as fact. I found it fascinating to voice, and hope the finished product is as enjoyable to watch. (National Geographic is available on Sky Digital 526/7, Virgin 230, Tiscali 112, and in Ireland on UPC 215.)

Cardiff-based See What You Mean, who I’ve worked with previously, also came to me this week and asked me to provide the voice for a piece they were putting together for Capgemini, and it’s always nice to be able to add another Blue Chip company to the client list!

Aside from the regular Film24 stuff, I spent the rest of this week making phone calls as part of my attempt to move into the ISDN Voice market for commercial radio ads, and I’m pleased to say that’s met with some modest success too. At time of writing I should be on air on radio stations in Northern Ireland, Sussex and Shropshire, with more to follow.

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Mike Cooper Narrates Easter “Jesus” Special for National Geographic Channel (UK)

Posted by MikeCooper on April 2, 2009

I’m delighted to have been asked to narrate a two-hour special for the National Geographic Channel for transmission over Easter.

Called “Jesus: A Man of Nazareth”, it looks at who Jesus really was and explores some of the truths behind what we’ve come to accept as facts over the intervening millennia.

More details to follow…

Posted in Documentaries, news, Television | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Dinosaur Secrets – “Ice Age Monsters”

Posted by MikeCooper on March 10, 2009

“Dinosaur Secrets”, the series I’ve been voicing for The History Channel here in the UK, is midway through its run, so I thought it was an appropriate time to post another clip. This one’s from last Wednesday’s episode, “Ice Age Monsters”.

The clip is here and you’ll need Quicktime to play it. If you enjoy it then check out the microsite. There’s also a Dinosaur Secrets Facebook Page here.

“Dinosaur Secrets” shows at 9pm on Wednesdays. History is on Sky Channel 529 and Virgin Channel 234, with the HD version on Sky 545.

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Mike’s Week on the Mike (2-8 March)

Posted by MikeCooper on March 6, 2009

For a couple of weeks now I’ve been adding a little roundup of my week’s work to my Voiceover Site. It struck me that, regardless of all the wisdom on not cross-posting, it would probably be of interest here too. So, here goes, with Mike’s Week on the Mike…

What a busy week it’s been – and, gratifyingly, most of it from repeat business, which is always heartening! The National Geographic Channel, who I hadn’t worked with in almost a year, invited me back to voice two programmes for their “Megastructures” strand. The first of these goes out on Wednesday night, 12th March at 9pm, and the second a week later on the 19th (both will doubtless do plenty of repeat business of their own, if you’re interested in catching them).

This week also saw me spending three days working through my agent, The Voiceover Gallery, updating a whole load of materials I voiced last year for the ACCA, the Association of Certified Chartered Accountants, along with my colleague Dominica Warburton. Three days in a studio owned by the ex-bass player for Def Leppard. Rock on…

Met Film also invited me back for the second week in a row, this time to voice an internal video for John Lewis from my home studio. Aparently my voiceovers last week for the Sunday Times 100 Best Companies to Work For Awards went down well on the night. In addition, having worked together for the first time last summer, Function Films got me in to voice a corporate video for their client, Turbine Services Ltd.

So, apart from my regular gigs for the BBC World Service and Film24, nearly all of my work this week has been from people I’ve worked with before. They obviously think I’m doing something right and repeat business is, after all, the finest form of freelance flattery.

One new bit of business for a new client though was especially interesting: Atlanta-based All Voices International asked me to help out with a client of theirs in Los Angeles, who was looking for a replacement British voice for her documentary project on the life of the Polish actress, Helena Modjeska. A combination of Source-Connect and Skype meant that London could talk to LA, while Atlanta held court and recorded in the voice track. Not a phone patch or an ISDN line in site. Is this a sign of things to come?

Posted in Freelancing, news, Voiceovers | Tagged: , , , , | 2 Comments »